BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

January 31, 2020
by blogwalker
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Behind Barbed Wire – An Evening with Paul Kitagaki Jr.

Thanks to an email from a colleague, on Tuesday night, I headed to the Sacramento Library to attend Behind Barbed Wire, a powerful presentation from the Sacramento Bee’s Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Paul Kitagaki.

Flyer advertizing January 27 Behind Barbed Wire presentation by Paul Kitagaki Jr

Political cartoonist Jack Ohman, also a SacBee Pulitzer Prize winner, joined Paul on the stage and guided the discussion and presentation.

Paul Kitagaki and Jack Ohman on stage

Like so many children whose parents have experienced exclusion and forced removal, Paul grew up knowing nothing of the internment camps. In the 1970’s, during a high school history class, he first learned about Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of nearly 120,000 citizens of Japanese heritage from the West Coast. He went home with many questions for his parents, but they did not wish to discuss their interment experiences.

By the 1980’s, as a young photojournalist in San Francisco, Paul learned that Dorothea Lange had photographed his family in 1942, while they awaited a relocation bus in Oakland, California. He traveled to the National Archives, where he found Lange’s photographs of his family. In the photo below, Paul’s father is up front on the right side, with his aunt seated between his grandparents. The woman standing in front of the family was a neighbor, who had come to say good-bye and wish them well.

Photo by Dorothea Lange of Paul Kitagaki Jr.’s family waiting to depart from the W.C.C.A. (Wartime Civil Control Authority) Control Station, in Oakland in 1942 for the Tanforan Assembly Center.

By 2015, Paul made a commitment to search for the children whose images were captured in the iconic photos of Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others, who traveled to the camps and photographed the internees. By now, these children would be in their eighties and nineties.

Yukiko Hayakaw Llewellyn (left) at age 66 and as a young child waiting to be relocated to a camp.

If you listen to the video clip below, you will see – and hear – samples from Paul’s growing WWII collection. Using black-and-white film and a large-format camera similar to the equipment of photographers in the 1940s, he has mirrored WWII photos to his contemporary photos, adding the voice of former internees sharing a childhood memory captured in the original photo.

Paul and Jack Ohman ended the presentation by inviting the audience to ask questions. The Q&A session was as riveting as the presentation. For every question asked, at least one or two people stood and shared their first-hand or second-hand stories from “behind the barbed wire.”

I started this posted by stating that it was through an email from a colleague (Laurie Doane) that I learned about the Paul Kitagaki event. Laurie’s father was interned at Heart Mountain. During the Q&A session, Paul mentioned Disney animator Willie Ito, who was also interned at Heart Mountain, where Ito and Laurie’s father became friends. One of my favorite takeaways from the evening was learning about a children’s book, Hello Maggie, written by Shig Yabu – and illustrated by Willie Ito.

I’ve blogged before that I co-direct/curate my district’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project, a collection of interviews from World War II and the Vietnam War. We will be updating the site soon with a post on Paul Kitagaki’s presentation and resources.

If the line had not been so long, I would have left the event with an autographed copy of Behind Barbed Wire: Searching for Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II. Next best thing…a trip to Barnes & Noble Folsom, which already has a copy in stock and has ordered a copy of Hello Maggie.

Thank you to the Sacramento Bee for hosting an unforgettable evening and event, a powerful reminder of how the stories from the past connect to the present.

April 27, 2011
by blogwalker
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Heading to Manzanar

Photo by Mark Kirchner

I’m packing my overnight bag for a weekend excursion to the Owens Valley, to visit Manzanar, a former WWII  internment camp for citizens of Japanese heritage. I’ll be traveling with California State University, Sacramento, professor Wayne Mayeda, a group of former internees, students from CSUS,  and a team of teachers from my district.

Our journey commemorates an injustice that began during the spring of 1942, in an act that denied thousands of citizens of their constitutional rights when the U.S. government rounded up the entire West Coast Japanese American community and “relocated” them to mass incarceration camps.

The very talented videographer Doug Niva will be joining me for the trip.  Our goal is to interview those who experienced – or witnessed – first hand the internment experience at Manzanar. We will be adding those primary accounts and reflections to our growing Time of Remembrance website.

So if you teach about Japanese internment and have something in particular you’d like me to research during our whirlwind weekend, please let me know.

February 11, 2008
by blogwalker
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Taking a Chance on Words: Why are the Asian-American kids silent in class?

While teachers are concerned about this lack of participation in classroom talk, they are also often relatively accepting of these quiet students who don’t pose a discipline problem, who turn in homework on time, and in general, get passing grades.

I am pulling a few quotes from Carol Tateishi‘s article Taking a Chance with Words, which she has published with Rethinking Schools. Carol shares insights from her own background of growing up Asian (Japanese-American) in a post World War II era as she observes through recent visits to San Francisco Bay Area high school classrooms “the lack of participation by students of Asian descent in the oral language activities of the class.”cover_200.jpg

In interviewing Asian-American students, she found four shared qualities:

  • Oral Language tends to be used functionally
  • Speaking publicly about one’s problems is discouraged
  • That restraint in talking is valued
  • You don’t talk about feelings or personal experiences

Yet as teachers, we commonly share a very different set of beliefs:

  • Oral language can be used to negotiate meaning
  • Risk-taking in talk is valued
  • Speaking in class increases engagement
  • Classroom dialog deepens learning

Carol points out that there is more at stake than “better learning of the curriculum.” Her concern is how the lack of strong verbal skills impacts future career paths for many Asian-Americans. “It mattered in the 1940s and matters again today if Asian-Americans have the words and voice to speak up for themselves and their communities. It matters if we have lawyers, writers, activists, educators, business leaders, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who understand the power of language and use it”

I will be passing this article on to colleagues whose class rosters include Asian-Americans. As Carol Tateishi points out: it’s easy to overlook the needs of students who seemingly pose no problems.

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